It’s easy to talk about dreams in Cincinnati these days, especially when it comes to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Ever since Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt stepped in front of a Derek Carr dart to end the infamous curse of Bo Jackson, everything’s felt like a dream.
Winning a road playoff game while surrendering nine sacks – followed by a 21-3 comeback in Arrowhead against the NFL’s current juggernaut – followed by seeing the Bengals logo in an endzone at the Super Bowl.
What the 2021 Bengals accomplished was beyond what anyone had dared to dream in April 2021 while Ja’Marr Chase sauntered his way across the orange glow of the NFL draft stage.
Now? Anything is possible. What dreams could become reality in 2022 to push this Bengals season beyond what are already massive expectations?
Let’s get crazy.
All stats and rankings courtesy of NFL.com
Dream No. 1: AFC North off-field Implosion
Success in the NFL always starts with your division. Elite teams led by elite quarterbacks rack up division titles. It certainly helps if the division falls apart, like many renditions of the AFC East during Tom Brady’s run.
The AFC North has never been that division but this offseason might be the start of that change.
Let’s run down the list of some of the drama in the AFC North
- Ravens traded Hollywood Brown to the Cardinals
- Stephon Tuitt shockingly retired from the Steelers
- Lamar Jackson has not signed a contract extension and did not appear at OTA’s
- Za’Darious Smith backs out of Ravens deal
- Kenny Pickett or Mitchell Trubisky?
- Baker Mayfield trade request
- The entire Deshaun Watson situation
I will not litigate the Deshaun Watson case here, but any sane person can admit that this is not good for the Cleveland Browns. They will be the most scrutinized ownership and front office in the NFL.
At the same time, the Ravens are entering a pressure-cooker themselves. They’ll carry the expectation of a division favorite while their QB is in contract limbo, and they’ve traded a star WR. A weak start could cause some rifts in the Ravens organization.
The Steelers have a changing of the guard both at QB and in team leadership. I expect Mike Tomlin will handle it well, and the Steelers won’t bottom out but the formula for failure is there, especially if Chase Claypool wants to be targeted like a top-three wideout.
If these off-field ripples somehow bleed into on-field performance, the Bengals can surf their way into back-to-back division titles for the first time since 1982.